A few days ago, I had my world rocked. Before bed, we asked my son how school was going and his response broke me. It broke me on levels I never even knew existed. He began to fight the tears as the words escaped his mouth, “Everyone hates me”. Immediately, my heart escaped me. I looked at the 10-year-old by across from me, tears turning into sobs, sobs turning into hyperventilation. He continued on, “They tell me I’m useless. I’m useless”. This is when I felt my pain turn into anger and I looked deep into his eyes and told him, “You are not useless. I mean that more than anything I will ever say to you. You are not useless”. Despite my telling him this, listening to his sobs for what seemed like an eternity kept me awake much of the night.
Nothing he has ever told me has had that effect on me. Whatever the challenge, we could face it and we would face it together. But I could not face this challenge with him. I could not take the pain away from him. All I could do was listen and say the words any parent worth their salt would say to their child, but meaning it with every part of who I am. I wondered if he knew that? Or if he thought to himself I had to say that?
Going into counseling, you read the stats. You read about suicide being the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, become acutely aware that for every one suicide there are approximately 25 attempts. More specifically, you know that males are more likely to commit suicide and make use of the most lethal means. You know that almost 50% of suicides are a result of firearm use- a quick pull of a trigger and then nothing. Knowing all this did not put me at ease.
I worry about my son. I worry about what is being said to him and the effect those words have. I worry that he will keep it inside of him because he is reaching the age where he does not talk to us about everything. I worry he will believe what he is being told by people that in 12 years or less will not matter. Most of all, I worry my love may not be enough to keep him from feeling bad about himself or worse.
Maybe you are reading this and imagining to yourself that I am being dramatic or overprotective. Maybe you feel as if it is the parents like me that are raising kids to need safe spaces in life. I hope you are right on both accounts. I hope I am being overprotective of my son because even though I cannot fully protect him from this, I can try to convince him that I will always be his protector. I will stop at nothing to do everything I can for him to see in himself what I see. I also hope that he not only believes in safe spaces, but creates them for himself and others.
I don’t have the answers for this problem. I don’t have some magic lamp that a genie can come popping out of to grant my wishes. All I have are my words, love, and the hope it is enough.